The Impact of Social Media on Young People
Sikhs Online are delighted to publish this article which was written by sixteen year old, N. Kaur from London, UK. Miss Kaur shares an insightful guide on the impact of social media on young people. If you find this article interesting and helpful, please kindly share it with someone else who may find it equally helpful.
An Overview of Social Media Platforms
Social media made its first appearance in 1997 with ‘Six Degrees’, a way for people to create users and connect with others. From that moment onwards, other platforms were created. Facebook came to light in 2004, YouTube in 2005 and Twitter in 2006. Currently, the younger generation is fixated on the most popular platforms, being mainly Instagram and Snapchat.
Despite living up to its original intention of allowing people to communicate with friends, form new friendships and share pictures/videos, children and teenagers are experiencing increased mental health problems because of what is happening online.
Instagram, for example, was established in 2010. The aim was for its users to upload pictures of their daily lives (food, travel, events etc.) and to privately message their friends. It quickly became a toxic environment when celebrities and those with high profiles began imposing beauty standards and images of perfection. Young people now feel as though they aren’t good enough because their posts don’t get half as many likes and they don’t have nearly as many followers as all the Instagram models on their Explore pages. These feelings of low self-worth can be harmful as they can develop into anxiety disorders, depression and even eating disorders.Unfortunately, the suicide rate amongst teenage girls is the highest it’s been in 40 years and this can be explained by the emergence and growth of social media.
Snapchat was created in 2011 to enable people to communicate via pictures and videos, and includes a chat function to enable regular conversations as well. Recent updates to the app allow friends to see your location, and when you were last active. It can become an obsession to check someone’s location to see if they are online but perhaps not replying to you. It is also a common obsession to check people’s snap-scores to see how often they are sending messages to others, and so despite having visual and functional differences, it has the same emotional and psychological effects as Instagram and other apps.
Although social media has its benefits, such as spreading awareness about global issues and shedding light on important topics, young people are constantly being brainwashed by what they see. Not only do they experience an alteration of their self-image leading to self-esteem issues, but they begin to feel compelled to change themselves completely in order to gain validation and social approval. This goes as far as starving themselves, undergoing surgical treatments to change certain aspects of their appearance, overworking and tiring their bodies by constant exercise, and even things like caking their faces with makeup until they are almost unrecognisable.
Sadly, it goes even further than not being satisfied with physical appearances. As mentioned before, it can become a compulsion for someone to keep checking their phone to see if a certain person has responded, or to see where they are and when they were last active. This goes hand in hand with the fear of missing out, or ‘FOMO’. FOMO came into existence around the same time that social media did. It can be extremely difficult for young people to come across posts or ‘stories’ of their friends hanging out without them or people just generally having more fun and appearing to be more happy, and so this leads to the ‘fear of missing out’ and the upsetting reality that people aren’t entirely affected by your absence.
Although social media clearly has its benefits, it also has an extreme impact on mental health, whether it’s because of unrealistic beauty standards or perhaps the anxieties around being left out or forgotten – so with all of this in mind, it is capable of potentially causing more bad than good, especially for young people.
While you don’t necessarily have to come off social media for good, if you start to feel the strain of being online, one thing you can do immediately is to take regular ‘social media-free’ slots. During this ‘downtime’, make a conscious effort to engage in other activities which does not involve picking up your mobile or computer but rather, take a short walk and get some fresh air. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to see the ‘real’ world in operation.
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